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>> couric: tonight, from the air and from the ground, japan launches a water assault on those damaged nuclear reactors to try to cool them. and a voluntary evacuation of americans is under way. i'm katie couric. also tonight, president obama tries to reassure this country we are safe. >> we do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the west coast. >> couric: libya's moammar qaddafi vows to retake all rebel-held territory as the u.n. considers military action to stop him. and from hiroshima to fukushima, her fear that japan is on the verge of another nuclear catastrophe. captioning sponsored by cbs
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from cbs news world headquarters in new york, this is the "cbs evening news" with katie couric. >> couric: good evening, everyone. there is so much concern in this country about nuclear radiation from jay japan that president obama went on national television today to try to calm every down. he said he does not expect harmful levels of radiation from those damaged reactors to reach hawaii, alaska, or the west coast. at the same time, the united states began evacuating americans from japan and u.s. officials reminded those staying behind to get out of that 50-mile danger zone around the fukushima dai-ichi plant. the reactors damaged by friday's earthquake and tsunami were bombarded today with water mr. from helicopters, police water cannons and fire trucks to try to cool them off and prevent a meltdown, but it's not at all clear if it's working. and in washington, the head of the nuclear regulatory commission said it could take weeks to get these reactors under control.
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bill whitaker in japan begins our coverage. >> reporter: this new video released today gives the clearest picture yet of the stricken fukushima dai-ichi nuclear power plant. >> what we're seeing is that the damage from the fires is very significant. >> reporter: today, japanese military helicopters with protective led-lined cockpits dumped water on reactor three, attempting to cool the nuclear fuel rods. but much of the water appeared to disperse in the wind. police and firefighters also brought in water cannons to douse the reactor but had to pull back after less than an hour when radiation levels became too high. reactors two and three have breaches in the containment vessel surrounding their molten nuclear cores. however, concern today focused on the spent fuel rods at unit three which, unless covered in water, could catch fire and spew radiation. officials now say the rods are almost completely exposed and are made up of a particularly harmful combination of uranium
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and plutonium called mox. >> it's very toxic. if you inhale plutonium or ingest it, it goes down into the body and it is the most powerful emitter of radioactivity inside the body. >> reporter: there are similar spheres about the spent fuel rods at reactor four. today the white house tried to down play an apparent dispute with its japanese counterpart about how close the situation is to catastrophe. >> president obama has great faith in the idea that the japanese are fully aware of the severity of the crisis. >> reporter: but it's clear that so much is riding on the workers who remain at the plant, now more than 300, it's believed they can only work in shifts of minutes at a time because of the high levels of radiation. they wear cumbersome protective gear and must rely on flashlights in a hot, almost pitch-black plant. one former fukushima worker who wished to remain anonymous told japanese television he's gravely concerned for those he was
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forced to leave behind. >> i'm still in fear far from the plant after evacuation, but thinking about the staff who is still in and around the plant now, they should be in tremendous fear, i assume. >> reporter: japan's prime minister told the workers-- many of whom volunteered to stay-- that retreat is unthinkable, leaving their families to wait and worry. one woman tweeted: >> reporter: japanese authorities now tell international nuclear watchdogs that they have been successful at putting in a new power line up to reactor number two. the hope is that they'll be able to restart those pumps and get cold water doused on those hot fuel rods. katie? >> couric: bill whitaker in tokyo tonight. james acton with the carnegie endowment for international
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peace is a physicist and an expert on nuclear safety. james, japanese officials acknowledged what u.s. officials said yesterday, those spent fuel rods, more than 11,000 of them in rapidly evaporating pools are the real danger. why initially were there two different assessments of the situation? >> in many ways i think there probably are still two different assessments of the situation. there's no question that the evaporating fuel pools is serious. without all of that water as shielding, this site is going to become much more heavily irradiated and consequently harder to move around and work it. but i think there's a genuine disagreement here over the chances that without the cooling effect of water these fuel rods could ignite. and there's a disagreement over how risky that is compared to the consequences of a meltdown. >> couric: are helicopters and water hoses really the best solution to this crisis? >> probably yes is the answer to that one. we're far beyond the play book on this. there's no manual, there's no
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emergency equipment, to deal with this kind of extreme situation. so right now the japanese government are being forced to improvise. >> couric: if the power comes on, will that solve the problem? >> i don't know, but this is going to be a pivotal moment when the power comes on because if the cooling systems in the reactors and fuel ponds are basically sound and then the power comes on, then that... we might look at that moment as the beginning of the end of this crisis. if, however, the cooling systems are damaged and the power comes on, they might not function correctly and this crisis could continue. >> couric: jamessing a to be of the carnegie endowment, thank you. >> thank you, katie. >> couric: president obama said today he's asked the nuclear regulatory commission to do a comprehensive review of the safety of america's nuclear plants. chip reid is our chief white house correspondent. chip, the president is trying to reassure americans here at home, protect u.s. citizens in japan and do all he can to help the
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japanese. >> well, katie, he's doing a lot. he's trying to do all thee of those things at the same time. but in japan today, the administration's top priority was clearly helping americans to get out. president obama signed a book of condolences today at the japanese embassy in washington. >> we are doing everything we can to stand by our great friend and ally, japan, in this hour of need. >> reporter: in japan, where airplanes are jam packed with people fearing the spread of radiation, the u.s. state department today offered voluntary evacuation for american citizens, including family members of u.s. diplomats. one plane left today with about 100 americans on board. hundreds more americans are stranded in sendai, north of the damaged reactors. 14 charter buses have been sent to bring them to tokyo. about 20,000 family members of u.s. troops stationed in japan are also being offered evacuation free of charge. meanwhile, u.s. helicopters continue to search for survivors
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and deliver supplies. 14 u.s. ships with 17,000 u.s. troops are now involved in the relief effort, bringing everything from food, water, and blankets to high-powered water pumps like this one to help cool the nuclear reactors. some u.s. troops are taking potassium iodide pills brought in from u.s. and south korea stockpiles to help protect them from potential radiation. now, the pentagon is sending a nine-person team to japan to try to figure out exactly how much radiation has escaped and is escaping from those reactors. the next step could be sending several hundred from a specially trained unit to help with decontamination. katie? >> couric: all right. chip reid at the white house tonight. chip, thank you. meanwhile, the nuclear crisis in japan has in some ways overshadowed the growing humanitarian disaster there. the official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami climbed today to nearly 5,700. almost 10,000 are still missing and about 390,000 lost their
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homes or were forced to leave them. lucy craft now on death and life in the disaster zone. >> reporter: he's shouting "a tsunami's coming." and running for safety to a nearby building. as more dramatic videos like this emerge today, the shock of what's happened continues to flood the japanese psyche. people haunted by scenes of crushing water and death. made more insecure by a lack of information from their government. they say they've received no official word on what they should do if radiation starts to move their way. in tokyo, more people are wearing face masks, usually warned to guard against germs. and despite no proof that it will help, this woman tells us she's wearing it for protection from radiation. tokyo's stores have long lines and some empty shelves, much of it blamed on hording. "i'm planning to buy more than i
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should" this shopper says. staples like noodles, batteries and toilet painer are running out. rolling outages, darkened intersection played havoc with a.t.m.s. people are jamming the airports and long lines have begun at passport offices. this official says more than twice the normal number of people are here. meanwhile, those who remain homeless in the countryside are beginning to worry about a dwindling number of supplies. 1.6 million japanese still don't have access to water. "what we're lacking most is water and vegetables" he says. "we need vitamin "c". going to the bathroom is a major problem, too." portable toilets, clothing and kerosene heaters are on their way if they can make it over the heavily damaged roads. search-and-rescue teams like this one from los angeles keep looking but so far they're not finding the survivors they hoped for. on thursday, two ports and a train line reopened in
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northeastern japan, relieving some of the bottlenecks that have prevented supplies from reaching hundreds of thousands of evacuees. it's hoped that from now on the relief effort can begin in earnest. lucy craft, cbs news, tokyo. >> couric: now to the battle for libya. moments ago, the u.n. security council voted to authorize all necessary measures to protect civilians from moammar qaddafi's forces. that includes imposing a no-fly zone to ground his warplanes. qaddafi loyalists now control all of western libya and he vows to retake cities in the east now held by rebels. there were bloody battles today along the highway approaching benghazi where the rebels are headquartered. david martin is at the pentagon tonight. david, what does the u.n. resolution actually do? >> reporter: well, it clears the way for air strikes against qaddafi even as he is vowing to finish the job of crushing his opponents by tomorrow. about ten u.s. and allied
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warships are off the coast of libya waiting for orders. the american ships are armed with cruise missile that could knock out qaddafi's command centers and air defense network as well as crater his runways. that would clear the way for air raids against qaddafi's army which is rapidly closing in on the last rebel stronghold in benghazi. >> qaddafi's forces have made significant strides on the ground over the course of the last 24, 48 hours. i believe they're only about 160 kilometers from benghazi right now. >> reporter: undersecretary of state william burns ruled out putting in troops on the ground, but this operation could include a naval blockade of the parts of libya under qaddafi's control as well as the delivery of supplies to rebel-held territory in the east. aircraft would jam qaddafi's communications to make it more difficult for him to issue orders to his forces. it is supposed to involve ships and aircraft from several european nations as well as at least two arab countries. but u.s. forces would play a major role.
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and french officials say military action could begin within hours of that u.n. vote. katie? >> couric: david martin. david, thanks very much. covering the story in libya is very dangerous and four journalists-- two reporters and two photographers for the "new york times"-- were doing just that when they disappeared on tuesday. the paper said today it's holding out hope they're alive and being held by government officials. this picture shows the two photographers running for cover last week to escape a libyan air strike. in bahrain, riot police fired on journalists today, including cbs radio reporter toula vlahou as she covered antigovernment protests outside the capital. she says the police showed no mercy. >> we were attacked by a wall of riot police. we thought they were going to fire tear gas at us but they fired pellets at us. i had to fall to the ground in the driver seat as the driver was driving to get out of there.
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>> couric: toula and her driver escaped unharmed but the bahrain police destroyed their car and took all of their equipment. and still ahead here on the "cbs evening news," a texas radiologist reflects on two japanese crises-- one 65 years ago, the other unfolding right now. and up next, experts try to ease concerns about that plume of radiation heading toward the u.s. [ woman ] we take it a day at a time. that's how it is with alzheimer's disease. she needs help from me. and her medication. the exelon patch -- it releases medication continuously for twenty-four hours. she uses one exelon patch daily for the treatment of mild to moderate alzheimer's symptoms. [ female announcer ] it cannot change the course of the disease. hospitalization and rarely death have been reported in patients who wore more than one patch at a time. the most common side effects of exelon patch
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omnaris combats the cause. get omnaris for only $11 at >> couric: the department of homeland security today began screening passengers in the u.s. arriving from japan for radiation. some who flew to chicago's o'hare airport tested positive but at levels too low to cause any health concern. radioactive plumes from the fukushima plant are expected to reach the west coast of the u.s. as early as tomorrow. health officials and, as we heard, president obama insists there no danger to the u.s. or pa pacific territories. cnn's dr. sanjay gawp a, a cbs news contributor, is in tokyo. is this plume over the pacific ocean dangerous? >> i think short answer is no and there's lots of different reasons why. first of all, they have some idea already, katie, of what the radiation levels have been and therefore what the radiation levels in this plume are likely
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to be and the numbers are pretty extraordinarily small. for example, if you think about a chest x-ray that a person may get, the amount of radiation from this plume would be one-tenth of that. that it would cause in any individual in the united states. the second thing is there are radiation detector centers, really, all over the country on the west coast certainly there are detections going off at any given time to see if a plume is coming and how much radiation is in there. so you're going to get some advanced warning. >> couric: meanwhile, sanjay, how concerned should people in this country be about people, cargo, even food coming in from japan >> there is a theoretical risk that you can transport these radioactive particles, on an individual, on a plane, certainly on the cargo. but the important point here again is levels. they check for radiation all the time and you'll find low levels of radiation. they are finding that on planes coming in from japan but at such low levels that it would have no impact on human health. even here in tokyo the levs have been up to 20 times normal but
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that's about one hundredth the level that would cause a human health problem. >> couric: dr. sanjay gupta in tokyo for us. sanjay, thanks so much. >> couric: thanks, katie. >> couric: and still ahead, a witness to history then and now. the afternoon tour begins with more pain and more pills. the evening guests arrive. back to sore knees. back to more pills. the day is done but hang on... her doctor recommended aleve. just 2 pills can keep arthritis pain away all day with fewer pills than tylenol. this is lara who chose 2 aleve and fewer pills for a day free of pain. and get the all day pain relief of aleve in liquid gels.
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advair will not replace a rescue inhaler for sudden symptoms. advair contains salmeterol which increases the risk of death from asthma problems and may increase the risk of hospitalization in children and adolescents. advair is not for people whose asthma is well controlled with a long-term asthma control medicine like an inhaled corticosteroid. once your asthma is well controlled your doctor will decide if you can stop advair without loss of control and prescribe a different asthma control medicine, such as an inhaled corticosteroid. do not take advair more than prescribed. see your doctor if your asthma does not improve or gets worse. is advair right for you? ask your doctor. get your first prescription free. advair helps prevent symptoms. >> couric: on capitol hill today, the republican-controlled house voted to cut off federal funding for national public radio. republicans say npr does well enough to fund itself, but
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democrats say a cutoff of federal money would cripple some 600 public radio stations. the bill faces stiff opposition in the democratic-controlled senate. now to russia, where the winters are hard and the road crews need artillery. the russian military today fired shells at some snow-covered mountains to start an avalanche to clear a mountain pass. all went according to plan... except some people got a little too close. but luckily no one was hurt. here in new york, a milestone, and that's no blarney. about 200,000 people marched up fifth avenue on this 250th anniversary of the city's st. patrick's day parade. it's america's longest-running and the world's largest, drawing about two million spectators. last year. (oof). i had a bum knee that needed surgery.
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and when we don't, our bodies steal it from our bones. caltrate helps put it back. with 1200 mg of calcium and 800 iu of vitamin d. women need caltrate. caltrate helps women keep moving because women move the world. >> couric: no one knows the destructive power of nuclear radiation better than the japanese. 65 years ago at the end of world war ii, the u.s. dropped atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki. as many as 246,000 people died. now one japanese woman fears she's about to witness her second nuclear nightmare. >> so right now i'm making the
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wings. if you could fold 1,000 origami birds then you could recover from the illness, and that's the symbol of longevity and happiness in japan. >> couric: ritsuko komaki was two when an atomic bomb dropped on hiroshima. she and her family lived 200 miles away, but many of her relatives perished and her grandmother became terribly ill. >> her hair fell off and she had a nose bleed. but she was taken away immediately and then she survived. >> couric: komaki moved to hiroshima and soon learned the long-term effects when her best friend, sadako sasaki, got sick. >> she was very fast runner then she became very short of breath and she was found to have lym. >> reporter: sadako tried to
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complete one thousand cranes hoping it might cure her. she got to 644 before she died at 12. moved by the death of her friend, ritsuko komaki wanted to turn the radiation that caused such harm into a tool for healing. she became a radiation oncologist now practicing at m.d. anderson in houston. that's not the only irony. when the earthquake struck last week, she was flying to tokyo to deliver a lecture. >> i saw the t.v. broadcasting. that's the first time i realized this disaster happening. >> couric: and as the situation at the fukushima nuclear plant becomes increasingly dire, hiroshima survivors see the same fear and uncertainty again, nearly 66 years later. >> children or babies, especially if they were exposed
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to a very high dose of radiation, they will have very high risk of the malignancy like leukemia or thyroid cancer. >> couric: dr. komaki and her friends raised money to build a statue in sadako's memory, it stands in hiroshima's memorial park, a golden crane held high in her arms. for dr. komaki it's a symbol of peace but also a powerful reminder of the deadly effects of radiation she witnessed firsthand. >> when i grew up, we were never told how much exposure we are getting. i'm just hoping that we'll get accurate information and also the people can help each other to recover. >> couric: there are about 240,000 survivors of hiroshima and nagasaki still alive today.
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that's the "cbs evening news" for tonight. i'm katie couric. good night.,,,,,,

CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
CBS March 17, 2011 3:30pm-4:00pm PDT

News/Business. Katie Couric. The latest world and national news. New. (CC) (Stereo)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Couric 24, U.s. 17, Tokyo 9, Katie 7, Libya 6, Us 6, Advair 4, Qaddafi 4, Benghazi 3, Obama 3, Katie Couric 3, Omnaris 3, U.n. 3, Crunchy Granola 2, Bahrain 2, America 2, Unitedhealthcare 2, Fukushima 2, Komaki 2, Cbs 2
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on 3/18/2011